… he was going on, when his eye happened to fall upon Alice: he turned round instantly, and stood for some time looking at her with an air of the deepest disgust.
“What – is – this?” he said at last.
“This is a child!” Haigha replied eagerly, coming in front of Alice to introduce her, and spreading out both his hands towards her in an Anglo-Saxon attitude. “We only found it to-day. It’s as large as life, and twice as natural!”
“I always thought they were fabulous monsters!” said the Unicorn. “Is it alive?”
“It can talk,” said Haigha, solemnly.
The Unicorn looked dreamily at Alice, and said “Talk, child.”
Alice could not help her lips curling up into a smile as she began: “Do you know, I always thought Unicorns were fabulous monsters, too? I never saw one alive before!”
“Well, now that we have seen each other,” said the Unicorn, “if you’ll believe in me, I’ll believe in you. Is that a bargain?”
“Yes, if you like,” said Alice.
From the chapter “The Lion and the Unicorn”, Alice Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll
I have just finished reading Alice Through the Looking Glass to my children. The moments when I read stories to them are probably some of my favourite moments of motherhood. I hope that they never stop wanting me to read aloud to them. Storytime is a cue for winding down; time to be still, to stop and listen, to just be content at the end of the day in our weary bodies. It is time to take ourselves off into a different world. I love hearing their gentle warm breath next to my ear, feeling their little chests rise and fall to the gentle rhythm of my voice. Their limbs sleepy and still, relaxing, in concentration and anticipation. Eyes wide with wonder. Warm heads snuggled under my armpits.
I love to play the role of the storyteller. It’s so much fun getting into character and doing all the funny, silly voices; making them laugh, making them scared, intrigued, confused, or just desperate to find out what happens next. I relish introducing them to the wonder of worlds which exist only on the page in words, pictures, and which fizz and sparkle, bursting into life in that moment inside our heads. There are no limits – only the far-reaching parameters of our own imaginations.
The bewildering range of things which a 6 and 4-year-old can conjure up in their make-believe worlds never fails to astound me: mermaids and sorcerers jostle with knights and princesses, dragons and fairies… Disney, God, the tooth fairy, Father Christmas… it’s all there, jumbled and confused maybe (and it’s all pretty much on level pegging), but it all provides such rich and wonderful material for little heads thankfully yet innocent of the onerous reality of the adult world. I’m glad they have all these characters to turn to and provide them with some comfort, and some answers which we adults sometimes fail to.
In childhood I see such urgency, such presence and promise, such embodiment of humanity in all its wild energy, passion, cruelty and innocence.
I don’t believe in so many things as I used to when I was little, but I believe most fiercely and passionately in them, those fabulous monsters. In everything they are in their lively, questioning minds and bodies, and everything they might be.